It caught your eye if you saw the headline on The Huffington Post: "The Office of the Future Is Weirder Than We Can Imagine."
The premise of the article is what the average office will look like in 2045.
But the author, Blake Zalcberg, chief executive officer of OFM, an office and school furniture manufacturer and distributor in North Carolina, must have been so weirded out by office transformation that what he really did was detail trends that we are already seeing in offices in 2016.
'I Listen to My Chair'
His first is the notion of a whole office becoming a computer. That isn't literally the case today, but we certainly are seeing the increasing computerization of public spaces across offices.
Full integration with the Internet of Things, for instance, is close to reality in Amsterdam's famous "the Edge" building, explained Tracy Schneider, a senior associate at design firm CallisonRTKL. Bloomberg Business called the office "the smartest office space ever constructed." In part, it is based on a mobile app that tracks and interacts with tenants from the minute they wake up.
The second of Zalcberg's premises is that "office furniture will be super smart."
Zalcberg focused in particular on the health benefits of having a smart chair — a chair that tells you to get up, stretch and walk around every so often, for instance.
Employee wellness is crucial in today's office design. Almost 90 percent of employees have admitted that workplace environment, or lack thereof, impacts their attitude about work, said Sara Abate Rezvanifar, branding and communications director at Ambience Design Group.
So this has led to such design touches as stand-up desks, increased “relaxation space” and more greenery and sunlight being brought in as part of what's called biophilic design.
"Incorporating natural elements has been proven to reduce stress, enhance cognitive function and expedite healing. This translates to less sick days and reduced turnover," Rezvanifar said.
No Where to Hide
Zalcberg also calls for "everything to be virtual." He's talking about a VR meeting room so swanky that you and your prospects in Pittsburgh or colleagues in Cairo will not want to leave it to return to your real-world offices.
Let's give this one to Zalcberg. This is still far beyond the experience offered by technologies like telepresence, which offers refers to advanced video conferencing facilities that use high Definition (HD) video devices and wideband audio to create fully immersive experiences.
A fourth trend of office space in 2045 will be, Zalcberg declares, that no one except the most senior management will have their own offices.
That again is an extension of what is already happening, with "hot desking," the sharing of resources and the accommodation of work-life based teleworking schedules already the norm.
Getting back to the Edge, employees do not have assigned seating. The building’s app schedules you a desk or work booth, a balcony seat or a meeting room, depending on your arrival time in the office and your day's schedule.
To give Zalcberg a break, he did a good job extending current trends to their logical conclusion. But the question is, did he miss anything?
U.K.-based design firm Kinnarps mentioned quite a few others in its 2015 trend report.
Workforces are increasingly more diverse, for example, and Kinnarps mentions the 4G phenomenon — we could have four different generations working in the same office soon (baby boomers through Gen Z). Plus, given the increasing attention rightfully paid to workplace gender issues and the introvert-extrovert dichotomy, expect designers and employers to get away from the white-, male-, baby boomer-, extrovert-focused status quo.
Another trend to watch is the idea of the branded office.
"Offices will become less places for employees to work than highly branded 'experience centers for employees, clients [and] partners to immerse themselves in the brand and culture, and connect face to face. This will be critical to build trust, which is the core currency of business in the new economy," said Rezvanifar.
So not only will we lose our seat in the office, but we'll literally have to drink the Kool-Aid. Another reason to hide out in the VR meeting space.
For More Information:
- Hubs, Hives and Hangouts: Adapting Your Digital Workplace
- In the Eye of the Beholder's Boss
- Tools for the Contingent Workforce
Title image by Ryan McGuire
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